How To Break Plateaus On The Bench And Overhead Press

Ty from Shanghai, China asks…

Thanks for what you’ve written and starting the Stronglifts website. My question is: the smallest plates my gym has are 2.5 Kilos; which means when I go up in 5×5, I’m going up by 5 Kilos. This causes me to easily stall on exercises like Bench, Press, and Rows. It seems like every day I’m hitting a plateau that I can’t break through Any suggestions? Thanks a lot. Ty

You will indeed not be able to sustain increases of 5kg/10lb per workout on the BenchPress, and Row. The reason is that these exercises use smaller muscles compared to the Squat and Deadlifts. As a result, you’ll plateau sooner and will have to deload more than the guy who has access to 2,5kg/1.25lb plates. This means that your strength and muscle gains will be slower.

Note that the smaller you are, the more important small plates are too. A guy weighing +275lb will progress more easily with 5kg/10lb increments than the guys weighing only 175lb like me because the former has bigger muscles.

Ironically, the weaker your lifts are, the more often you’ll plateau with 5kg/10lb increments.  As an example, for a 500lb Squatter, adding 5lb is only a 1% increment. But for a 200lb Squatter that same 5lb is 2,5%. Worse, for the guy Pressing 100lb, that 5lb is a 5% jump while 10lb is a whopping 10%. That’s why you’ll keep plateauing if you don’t have small plates.

So the obvious solution is to get a set of fractional plates. I have a set of fractional plates: 8 plates with 2″ holes and weights ranging from 1/4lb to 1lb. This means I can use increments as low as 0,5lb/0,22kg per workout. This is invaluable when plateauing on the Press or Bench.

You could also put a small pair of chains on your bar, use several collars or ankle weights, and so on. But fractional plates are easier to use and they last forever. You just put them in your gym bag and use when you need. Here are some I recommend:

Don’t get caught up with the price per pound. Fractional plates are always more expensive per pound than regular gym plates because it costs more to manufacture at a tighter weight tolerance. This is what you’re paying for.

Once you’ve received your fractional plates, switch from 5kg/10lb jumps to 2,5kg/5lb increments on all your lifts. And when you start plateauing on the Press/Bench/Row, switch to 1kg/2lb jumps for these lifts. This will allow you to progress longer on StrongLifts 5×5 without having to deload all the time.

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